Story Lines in Spring
- Maikel Franco needs to pull an Agholor and rebound
- Prospects like Scott Kingery, Roman Quinn (injury history), and Eschelman have an outside shot at making the roster. Quinn is on the 40-man and Kingery & Eshelman are not. Factoring in injuries, a short bench, and delaying free agency, it's looking like these guys will be sent to AAA but it won't take long to see these guys in the bigs, especially if they make a good impression in Spring & in the first month at AAA.
- Bench: Altherr and Williams will be OF #3 & 4. The second spot is back-up catcher and that's between Rupp's $2MM salary or Knapp's brilliant 2017 performance - or both. Fourth is the utility position and versatility is needed here: Florimon can play left side plus some OF; Quinn can play all three OF positions; Tommy Joseph could still end up here if he shows he can pinch hit under low playing time but not likely.
- And not to be outdone, it'll be our first in-game impression of Gabe Kepler. Can he and his staff be the next Doug Pederson (Eagles were more than the sum of their parts) or at least meet my 90% rule? We'll see.
Gabe said two things yesterday: I agree that this team can surprise if they make strides and that the goal has to be NL East. However, realistically, this team will end up at 78 through 84 wins and short of the postseason. It takes - historically - quite a bit more for a wild card and probably a lot more for the division. He can mention those from time to time especially in his Spring speeches, but ultimately his focus will have to shift to ensuring that individuals take those steps forward.
- Can the Phillies continue their success from July 12th on?
- Can they create leads despite a young rotation, deficiencies in defense?
- Can that rotation get through the first 21 batters relatively unscathed (4 R or less)? I'd like to see the depth evolve in Spring: Eschelman (AAA then MLB) vs. Pivetta (6 ERA last yr) is my biggest wonder. Lively had the best performance in 15 games last year but a low K-rate; Leiter (bullpen probably), Eflin (injuries), Thompson (BB-rate)... Velasquez gets one more shot & Eickhoff did well before battling injuries. Can they survive 162-games? Can the offense, too? It's a long season (sorry, cliche!)!
- And can a revamped bullpen hold leads?
One more story line that would be cool is awards: Nola could get Cy Young. Crawford, Kingery, Alfaro and perhaps Lively, Eshelman, etc. could be RoY. And Nola, Williams, Herrera, Altherr, Hoskins, or Santana could be MVP. We have bounceback and bullpen award candidates too. Obviously, if the team doesn't contend, we will see no MVP and most awards will not go to Phillies. Nola's Cy Young is perhaps the most likely (especially if 18 wins for him or more!) followed by a RoY - at least seeing votes. If they do contend or put on a fight til the [near] end, Gabe K & Matt K could be manager/ executive of the year.
We shall see... go Phillies!